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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
When Simon led Kavya back to 9, Castle Hills, finding Dhruva in the portico, she rushed to him as though to dispel his pensiveness, and the cop, handing him a copy of Radha’s confessional statement, went into the anteroom to allow them a free reign on their emotions.
Discerning myriad emotions in his demeanor as he read it, as if to share his feelings, Kavya nestled her head on his shoulder. Sensing that he was overcome with grief as he had finished with it, she exhorted him to be strong, so that he could be of strength to the hapless woman. Thanking her for reminding him of his duty, as he wished that she pleaded Radha’s case in the court as well, she said that though she would have loved to be her lawyer, yet she felt that besides making herself tense for it involved her rival’s life and death, it could cause unease in the arraigned for the same reason. Patting her in apparent appreciation, he rang up Prativadi, the feted defense lawyer, after which he fetched Simon to join them.
As Simon wanted to know how he came to suspect Radha, Kavya said that the recap might as well help him unwind himself. Dhruva said that his narrative might embarrass her as well but she assured him that there was no way she would be sore on that score as she came to treat her past as a bad dream. Dhruva began the recap saying that he felt guilty when he heard that Kavya developed a soft spot for Pravar, believing that Ranjit was hand in glove with Shakeel in foisting the fake-notes case on him. When Ranjit said that he suspected she became close to the criminal, he realized that she was a victim of the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ induced psyche, and he suffered from remorse, as the misfired idea was his.
Pausing to have a look at her and seeing her surprised look, his demeanor became dull, but as she laid her hand on him with love-filled eyes, holding her hand, he resumed the recap. His focus had always been to wean Kavya away from Pravar before his inimical influence proved to be her undoing. But what made it worse for him was he had no way to prevent her anticipated fall in that brat’s company, and the murder of her husband, in which, possibly, she might have had a hand, only added to his misery.
When she came to seek his help to nab her husband’s killer, he was not sure whether she came with a red herring or not, but when he saw her sense of purpose, he was inclined to believe her, (he looked at Kavya as she fondly caressed his hand) in spite of Radha’s averments about her likely guilt. While Kavya’s remorseful confession, in the wake of Shakeel’s death, reinforced his belief in her innocence, Radha’s pointers to Kavya’s guilt tended to dent her credibility though he was unable to see how Shakeel could have eaten from either Natya’s or Kavya’s hand, not to speak Pravar’s. Why, it would have been far more easy for Pravar to bring in his, or Rajan’s, revolver into play, and that seemingly ruled out his involvement in Shakeel’s murder and Kavya’s too by extension.
Radha’s innuendoes that he could have been blinded by Kavya’s allure didn’t help either and being pulled apart emotionally by two superb women he came to admire; it was as if he was truly sundered on the investigative ground. But it was the murder of Pravar and Natya at Kavya’s place that reinvigorated his investigative mind, why, in every way it was an extraordinary murder, though Radha tended to picture it as a cut and dry case of Kavya’s culpability; there was no denying that Kavya had the motive as well as the means to commit the crime, never mind her alibi, as Guntur was but a six-hour drive from Spandan.
When Simon told him that the deceased ate packed food, the plot only was thickened – thought it wouldn’t have been hard for Kavya to lure the duo into her house, but would it have been easy for her to make them eat the poisoned stuff without herself sharing it with them? Was Kavya as naive as not to know that lying in her house, the duo’s dead bodies would surely point their fingers at her role in their death? Why shouldn’t she have poisoned them in their own den even if she wanted to murder them out of foolhardy? Was such a course not far easier for her? But what if Pravar, spurned by her, developed a suicidal urge to hurt her? True, one’s psychic impulse for suicide stems from the obsessive desire to inflict emotional injury upon the one that caused hurt to one’s self, but how he got the door key. What if Kavya in their bonhomie give him one of the keys, but then, why none was found in Spandan after their death. With the lock being unhampered, it was evident that the ill-fated couple were snared into Spandan but why should have Kavya had them there to implicate herself? When he realized that Kavya had only one door key with her, and the other two were in the bank locker, which she did not access ever since she came to stay at 9, Castle Hills, it was apparent that her hands were clean.
What about the burka-clad woman, a common factor in all the murders? I was certain that it was a woman and not a man in the burka. Didn’t Godse give up the idea of donning a burka to assassinate Gandhi realizing that man can’t hide his gait behind that? Why burkas in Spandan were lying in the wrong place, Natya could have hung hers on the clothes-line of the guest room’s bathroom and not on that of the master bedroom’s toilet? Given that the talk about some burka-clad woman behind the poison murders was thick in the air, it made no sense for Kavya not to get rid of them, so they were clearly planted to mislead the cops, what’s more, it confirmed that the intruders had access only to the main door key and not that of the cupboards, the right place for their stacking.
When he noticed that the door bolt was missing, it was apparent that it was removed beforehand by the culprit to ensure that the duo don’t get bolted inside, for as corpses they could not have let him or her in to retrieve the key, before the neighbors smelt foul. So, the ‘entry key’ to the murders was not the ‘genuine one’, literally as well as figuratively, and that the house key that Kavya brought with her to Castle Hills showed traces of wax on it, it was clear that someone got the duplicate keys made out of it – one to enable the duo to enter into Spandan and another for her own entry into it to retrieve the one she gave them. Who could have done that? Not the Rajus for sure.
Who would have wanted to eliminate Pravar as it was evident that Natya was a collateral damage to implicate Kavya? Why not Radha? Besides, as she had reason to see the end of Shakeel, if not in Ranjit’s, he set out to her Red Hills house for hard clues and found those keys and the potion. Since he chose to play his cards close to his chest, failing to read his hand, Radha believed that it was only a case of burglary in her house, and didn’t lose much sleep over the missing keys. But as expected by him, afraid of a repeat, she smuggled the poison into 9, Castle Hills, while he, fearing that a peeved Radha could poison Kavya, had substituted it with a harmless solution (he could feel Kavya’s caress on his back). When Rani, her ‘half-namesake’ and ‘full-soul mate’ as Radha put it, who too happened to come into his life, sent that incriminating photograph and as the forensic reports too nailed her to the core, he had alerted Simon about it
When Kavya wondered what would have been the case if, instead of the indicative burkas, Radha had indeed planted the implicating poison in Spandan; Dhruva said that, in that case, instead of Radha, she herself would have been in the dock fending to avoid the noose. As Kavya felt that it was ironical that such a thin thread should have separated truth and falsehood; he averred that it was in the character of crime to uphold justice by overawing the criminal to leave a way for it to cry foul. While Kavya heaved a sigh of relief, he added that given that Radha had planned and executed the murders as she did, it was a remarkable, if diabolical, job and if it were only to be Ranjit’s or Shakeel’s murder, who knew, she would have had the last laugh. Recalling Dicey’s death, he said that as Radha didn’t leave the pet for a moment till it died, he thought then that how she cared for it, but as he could see in the hindsight, she was only monitoring how the poison worked on it; the thought of it makes him feel bitter about her but then like her killer, the pet too was a victim of victim-hood.
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